Monthly Archives: January 2011
Today’s prompt is: Solitude.
The days after Evelyn’s death were long and hard. I sought solitude and the company of myself, but it seemed to me that there was another knock on my door as soon as one person had left. They came to visit me, to ask me about her last words, a few to see how I was doing. I did not care for their company; without Evelyn the temple was nothing to me. The temple of Ahkmar was rising; without Evelyn, this temple was as good as dead. It served a dead Goddess after all.
A newspaper came to me and asked me to write her obituary. I spat in the young man’s face and told him to leave me alone with my grief. I didn’t care about the bad publicity.
I appeared at her funeral, but I watched from the distance. Evelyn had brought me in when she found me bleeding to death on the street; she had saved me, she had cared for me. I would never have been a priestess, but she gave me a life within the temple. She did not give me friends. I did not speak to the mass that gathered at her funeral. I spoke only briefly to those whom I had known well, but I did not pursue conversation.
When her body was buried I walked back to my room alone. I did not go to the wake. I had seen all I needed to. I had all I needed…
Evelyn handed me a silver silk bag held closed by a string. It was heavy in my hand and it clinked when it moved. I pulled the bag open as she watched. Twenty silver coins and a dozen gold coins filled the bag to the brim. I gasped and looked up at Evelyn. She smiled at me, her old decaying eyes sparkling in the candle light.
“It was my mother’s. She gave it to me when she died, but what good is money to a woman of the temple? I have been waiting all of this time for the Goddess to show me what I am to do with this. She has shown me now that I am to give it to you.”
“You must find your own way, and this will allow you to do that…”
The preparations were simple: buy a horse cheap from the temple, get a free bundle of blankets and clothes, and go into town to buy food and whatever else I needed to. Of my own possessions I brought only the necklace Evelyn had given me for my sixteenth birthday a year earlier and the sword that my father had tried to kill me with many years before that. When I had slit his throat with a kitchen knife, I took the sword.
A sword doesn’t always save you from a beating, but it helps. I put it in a leather sheet and put it around my waist. I wore trousers for riding and a white shirt, covered by a green cloak. The horse they sold me was a beauty, black as night and nearly as fast as a bird. Her name was Taea. Taea was Evelyn’s horse; she rose the horse just as she rose me, with kindness and love.
It was sunset when I was finished in the city. I did not mind riding through the night; anything to get out of this place. Taea carried me through the gates just before they closed for the night. The guards did not try to stop me. I was only mildly surprised; they probably figured I was on a suicide mission anyway.
The night was warm and the cool wind refreshing. I was alone, really and truly alone, in the middle of the forest. The trees were my company. And I was fine with that.
Please post the first 75 words of your response.
This year most of my goals revolve around one thing: discipline. In past years I have fallen off of the writing bandwagon. I have forgotten to blog for weeks on end, and I have failed to finish several projects. I have not made the amount of time for my writing that I should have. In short, I have not been disciplined enough.
But things are changing this year. This summer I turn eighteen and I will finally be old enough to sign a book contract. This year I have to put in the effort. This year I have to pull myself together and finish, edit, and submit. I have often said that I do not have a part time job because I spend the time I would spend at such a job writing. But this is only an excuse unless I am actually trying to make a living off of my writing.
My goals this year are much smaller than my goals last year, but they are also more focused. By the end of this year I want to have one novella out on submission and one novel about to be sent out for the first time. It’s time for me to stop procrastinating and start really writing. This is my career, this is my future and I have to take it seriously.
So how am I going to become more disciplined this year?
Breaking down big goals will allow me to focus on individual tasks-what I need to do right now rather than what I need to do by the end of the year. Preparing Moonshadow’s Guardian for submission doesn’t seem so daunting when I have a timeline for the big rewrite, the second rewrite, the final proofread and creating the query package. Having Some Secrets Should Never Be Known ready for its final proofread by next year seems just a bit easier when I have a timeline for pre-work, writing, and rewriting.
Break down your yearly goals into monthly goals. If you need to make even smaller goals, think about weekly goals and daily goals-for example, if you write a page a day, will you meet your monthly timeline? How about if you write a chapter or two each week? Writing two chapters a week, even if it means finishing your novel by the end of the month, doesn’t feel quite so daunting as ‘finish my novel by the end of the month’.
Last summer I learned that there really is something to how you think about things, that it actually does influence your life’s course. I challenged many of my beliefs and I have become a better person because of that. I have overcome former weaknesses, though I will never be perfect. I have accomplished what I wanted and needed to accomplish.
This year I am going to do much the same thing with my writing. Here are some of the beliefs I have to challenge:
I don’t have time to write If I have time to go out and see my friends and plenty of time to spend with my boyfriend, I have time to write. I just need to spend less time socializing and more time writing. I have to make the time and I have to say no to last minute plans.
I won’t make a living as a writer until I’m old If I focus hard enough, if I truly dedicate myself to my craft, if I put in the effort, I can get published sooner rather than later. I am a good writer, and though I will always be learning, I know enough now to start making a career. And if I focus hard enough and I get published soon, I can probably be making a living off my writing by the time I’m 25.
I need more life experience to get published I’ve had a lot more life experience than many people my age. I have matured as a person and as a writer. I am quite capable right now. Life experience will always help make my writing better, but I can’t wait for life to happen. I need to make the writing happen sooner rather than later.
Giving yourself a pat on the back every time you accomplish something small is more productive than thinking about what you still have left to do. You may have heard the advice to live your life in the moment; well, to a point, writing should be much the same way. You should focus on the scene or page or chapter that you are working on rather than the whole book. Whole books are a lot scarier to think about.
Next time you finish your writing for the day, congratulate yourself. Think about what you’ve accomplished and how well you’re doing. Don’t think about the next day or the day after that. Just sit down with a cup of something warm and tasty and enjoy yourself.
Applying Butt To Chair
Any writer worth his or her salt knows that the most important thing about being a writer is applying your butt to the chair and actually writing. This is also the hardest part of being a writer. Calling yourself a writer and having great ideas are easy; sitting down and turning those ideas into stories is hard. There are a few things that I need to do to help myself apply butt to chair:
Spend more time at home Lots of writers don’t have this problem. There are many shy writers and I would go so far as to say that the majority of writers have problems socializing. Personally I am extremely social and though I don’t hang out with many ‘normal people’ (by society’s standards) I do hang out with a lot of people. I need to spend more time at home to ensure that I have time for both homework and writing stuff.
Take My Writing Seriously the other part of this is to make sure my friends take my writing seriously. I need to learn how to say no when I’m invited out. I need to make my friends aware that I do need time for writing. I don’t need to schedule specific writing time every day-but I do need to make sure that I have a little bit of time to write every day or almost every day.
Focus on the Dream When life gets me down and it gets hard to find time to write-or hard to write-I need to remember my dream. I need to close my eyes and imagine my future-preferrably in a little house somewhere near or on the cliffs of Scotland, writing books with a couple of cats and hopefully the same man I have now. I need to remember why I put myself through the pain of forcing words onto a blank page. I need to remember that it’s all worth it in the end.
This year I need to focus on becoming a real, professional writer. It’s time to stop messing around and start treating my writing like what it is-a career, a future. It’s time to be a little more disciplined. And when I am my future will fall into place.
How can you be more disciplined?
When working to achieve your goals, it’s good to remember that how you think about your goals is as important as the goals themselves. I’m not just talking about Breaking Down Big Goals, I’m talking about optimism versus pessimism in a sense. Not optimism towards the world-I still have a very bleak worldview-but optimism towards yourself. I’m talking about focusing on positive reinforcement instead of negative reinforcement.
Thinking ‘I Can’ and ‘I Will’ instead of ‘I Can’t’ and ‘I won’t’
Everybody’s told you to make sure that your goals are concrete and achievable. What they haven’t told you is how much your thinking can damage your progress.
I’ll use a very personal example. Until recently, I’ve always had relationship problems. I never gave any of my relationships longer than six months life expectancy. I expected that I would be a bad girlfriend; I expected that nobody would be able to deal with me.
At the end of the summer, I had a mental breakdown. I screwed up the best relationship of my life, and it could have been forever. Thankfully it wasn’t. But before I could re-commit to the relationship, I had to change the way I thought. Instead of ‘this isn’t going to work’ I had to think ‘this will work’. I had to think ‘this will last a long time’ instead of ‘this will only last a few months’. I had to think ‘I can be a good girlfriend, I will be a good girlfriend’ instead of ‘I’m a bad girlfriend, I will always be a bad girlfriend’. Most of all I had to learn to think about how I could get through the problems in my mind, the problems in my communication with my boyfriend, rather than thinking they were unbeatable and that they would destroy us. I did make all of these mental changes, and I’m back to that commitment, quite happily still in the best relationship I’ve ever had.
Your writing goals-and your life goals-can be just as easily broken down as your relationships, if not more so. All it takes is thinking ‘I can’t accomplish this’ or ‘life won’t give me the time I need’ or ‘I won’t do this.’ You have to think ‘I can accomplish this’ and ‘I will make time for this’ and ‘I will do this’. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s something you have to do.
When you’re feeling down and life is getting in the way, think about what you have already accomplished. If you managed to do that when letting life push you around, imagine what you can do if you forcibly make time to reach your goals. If you’re feeling down about your writing, then write something anyway, and focus on how good it feels to have written, not how hard it is to write.
Replace every Negative thought with a Positive thought
Every time a nasty thought about yourself and your goals, challenge it with a positive thought. Don’t think that you’re the most amazing person ever instead of the worst person ever; do think that you are a good person rather than a bad person. Every time ‘I can’t do this’ pops into your head, tell yourself ‘yes I can, if I try’. Every time you think ‘I’m too lazy to do this’ or ‘I’m not disciplined enough for this’ tell yourself ‘I can do this’ and ‘I am disciplined enough’. If something is really blocking you from reaching your goals, think about how to get over, around, under, or through that obstacle.
I am devoting myself to a new way of thinking. I will not say that I am lazy or undisciplined. I will say that it is hard for me to keep any strict routine, and I will think of ways to be productive without a strict routine so that I don’t get myself down about not being in routine. I will not say that blogging three times a week is too much work for me. I will say that I can do it, but I need to make the time for blogging. I will not believe that it is too hard to finish rewriting a novella while working on the mythology of another world. I will believe instead that with proper focus and making time I can certainly finish both the mythology and the novella in a couple of months.
Did you complete high school? Odds are, if you managed that-or if you’re still in school and managing to pass-you can do a lot of other great things, too. If you completed high school, you have the discipline to write a book, even if not very quickly. If you completed high school, you can probably blog three times a week; it’s no different from doing three one-page assignments in a week. You might say that they gave you six hours a day to do it in-but if you made time for your homework, you can make time for your passion.
So next time you look at your list of goals and think ‘I’m never going to manage that in a year’, think instead ‘I can do this and probably more this year’. It’s not easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. (Except maybe breathing and sleeping… Possibly eating.)
What negative thoughts are holding you back? How will you challenge this?
Today’s Prompt is: Illness
The halls of the Great Temple of Memories were never so quiet as on the day High Priestess Evelyn died. The songs of worship were not sung on that day, seventh day of the seventh month. The priests prayed in silence. The doors of the great temple were not opened that day. The air in the temple hung heavy over the heads of healthy priests.
A young girl carried an iron kettle in one hand and a clay mug in the other. She wore black today instead of the colour of her Goddess. Today was not an ordinary day. Today was a day of mourning. She walked quietly in padded slippers down the huge halls. It was said this place was built by giants. She could believe that if she looked up and thought about how far away the ceiling was.
At the very end of this hall there was a green door. On the door in elegant black lettering were the words ‘High Priestess’. The girl did not need to knock; the door opened of its own accord to let her through.
The room that she walked into was fairly large. The walls were light green contrasted against dark mahogany furniture. There was an elegant desk in one corner with a red arm chair sitting next to it, a wardrobe in another corner, and in the centre of the room there was a huge four poster bed. On either side of the bed were a little tea table and a little chair. The windows behind the bed were closed and the curtains drawn over them.
In the bed there was a woman, a very old woman with braided silver hair and unseeing blue eyes. She smiled as the girl put the kettle down and then the cup.
“It is nice to see you still care,” the woman said.
“We all still care,” the girl said.
“Perhaps. But no amount of caring can save me.”
“Do not speak that way, Mistress Evelyn,” the girl said, pouring the tea into the cup. “I have brought you tea.”
“I am going to die, child. I have lived a good life. It is fine.” The woman took the tea and sipped at it. “Ah, rose tea; my favourite. Thank you.”
“You do not have to die today-”
“If I do not die today, I shall live only to die tomorrow.” The woman put her tea down.
“You can live yet.”
“No; I have summoned you here so that I might have a friend by my side when I die. Do not try to stop me; if I wanted more life, I would seek a healer.”
“Mistress…” the girl took the old woman’s hand.
“Listen to me,” the old woman said, looking at her, “when I am gone, follow the river to its widest point. Choose carefully which of its paths to follow, and along that path you shall find your queen.”
“Do not question. Just go.”
Evelyn’s eyes closed and her chest sank. The girl buried her head in the dead woman’s shoulder and sobbed ever so quietly.
This year I think most of us have big goals and high hopes. Like me, you might be planning to finish rewriting and to submit your first novella. Or you might be planning to write two first drafts and edit the first book. Or you might be planning to write a lot of short stories and send those out. You might even have books with publication dates that you’re just itching to sell.
On a personal front, you might be planning to quit smoking, eat healthier, learn more. You might have decided that this year you want to work on more non-writing creative projects. You might want to spend this year focusing on finishing high school and getting into university. Whatever your goals are, it’s time to take a look at how to accomplish them.
Breaking Down Your Goal: The Basics
Each of your big goals can and should be broken down into more manageable goals. A yearly goal can usually easily be broken down into monthly goals. If your big goal is nebulous-eat healthier or write more, for example-that’s fine, as long as you can break it down into concrete monthly goals. For example, in January you might start eating healthier by making sure you eat a bowl of salad every other day. You might start writing more by writing one page every day. In February you might want to eat fresh fruit every day, alternating between apples, oranges, and several kinds of berries. You might also want to write two pages every day.
The biggest goal for me this year is to finish a complete rewrite of my 2006 Nanowrimo, Moonshadow’s Guardian, and to be ready and able to submit it by my eighteenth birthday on August 29th. I have decided to split it into two novellas for story reasons. I only want to submit the first one on my eighteenth birthday, but I would like to have finished the second one by the end of the year.
So how do I break up this goal? It looks something like this:
January-February: During January and February I will finish the first Novella, which will remain named Moonshadow’s Guardian. This will consist of writing a page or two every day, and tinkering briefly with the page before the one I’m working on to get me back into story mode. When breaking up your own goal, remember that things don’t need to be done all at once. You have all year; spend January laying down a foundation for the rest of your work and February starting it.
March-April In March I will hopefully have already finished this draft of Moonshadow’s Guardian. This will make time to plunge fully into the writing of my current full-length novel project, Some Secrets Should Never Be Known. I’ll spend March working on other projects and start a second, smaller rewrite on April first. March is often used as an editing month and it is NanoEdmo, so I will probably be running several articles on editing during that month.
When breaking up your goal, remember that by April 30th you should be about a quarter of the way to reaching your goal.
May-June I will finish the second, smaller rewrite preferrably by May 15th. It will take less time than the first because there will be less to do-probably a lot less. In June I will be able to start my first edit of Some Secrets Should Never Be Known, but I will also be preparing a synopsis, query, and a market list. The market for Novellas is growing, so while I already have my eyes on a very specific publisher, I will also be looking into other publishers around this time.
By June you should have made decent progress into your goals, enough that you are just riding on momentum. If you haven’t, don’t worry, it just means you need to spend more time on your goals. Think carefully about where you can find extra time. And if you have a problem with writer’s block, try some meditation and some prompts. Think about why you’re blocked and how you can get past it.
July-August July will probably be my most writing-heavy month, because in August I will probably be fleeing Toronto to visit a friend of mine in BC. Since I’ll be driving across the country with my boyfriend, I won’t have too much time to write. I probably won’t even have a laptop by then. So in July I want to do one final minor edit on Moonshadow’s Guardian, write a final copy of the synopsis and a final copy of the first query I would like to send out. (To a specific publisher.) In August I will probably just be sending it out.
By July you should be halfway through your goal. July’s a good month to finish one stage of your project entirely and to begin a new one. Those of us who have vacation during the summer should take account of that and make the best use of our time possible.
September-October By September Moonshadow’s Guardian, the first novella, will be out on submission. While I sit and wait anxiously for a response, in September and October I will be outlining and naming the second novella as well as planning for Nanowrimo.
September is a time for new beginnings; if you can have one goal finished by September and start another related goal by October, you’re ahead of the game. Now you should be very close to achieving your goal, with only a couple of things left to do. It’s also a good time to start thinking about how you can build upon your achievements next year. And in October, don’t forget to prepare for Nanowrimo.
November-December In November everything I’m working on will go on hold for Nanowrimo. In December I’ll take the first week or so off, but I would like to start working on the second novella. I also want to write a couple of short stories in December.
If you participate in Nanowrimo, then you might want to put everything else on hold for the month. If you don’t then you have an extra month to work on reaching your goal. November is a good time to start a habit that’s generally indoors-writing daily, drawing daily, blogging daily-and you’ll find lots of challenges all over the web to help you with this.
Obviously by December you should have only little things to do for your goal. By this point I will have finished Moonshadow’s Guardian and sent it out, and finished two drafts of Some Secrets Should Never Be Known, as well as having completed two workshops here on the blog and several short stories. December should be a slow month when it comes to your goals because Christmas will eat all your time.
How you can use this to your advantage
You don’t have to break your goal down into smaller monthly goals entirely just yet, but it’s good to have your January and February goals decided now at the very least, with an idea of what comes next. Remember to take monthly times into account when you’re setting goals-if you are going on a non-writing vacation (or minimal writing vacation) or if one month you know you’ll be working extra hours, set a smaller goal for that month; if you have a big vacation in the summer with lots of spare time, then prepare to devote yourself to your goals.
Each month’s goal should build upon the last. If one month you finish a first draft, the next month you should do something else, but keep the rewrite in the back of your mind and maybe send out part of it for critique. If you start eating salad three times a week one month, you should start an exercise routine or start eating more fresh fruit. Maybe one month you’ll stop biting your nails and the next you’ll stop smoking.
If your goals are nebulous, then you break them down into concrete monthly goals. If you achieve each concrete monthly goal, then you will have achieved your yearly goal. For example, I have an unofficial goal to take better care of myself. This will manifest in first cutting back on gluten (I might have Celiac, which means I shouldn’t eat gluten) and stopping biting my lips. Then I will be endeavoring to wash my face and brush my teeth more often, because I don’t do those things as much as I should. Finally I will be quitting smoking. One thing leads to another. One goal, one success, helps you believe that you can succeed at the harder task.
If you get discouraged, remember why you made the goal. Remember that you are rewriting to submit; you are eating better to live longer; you are submitting to become a published author; you are blogging to meet new friends.
Next week I’ll probably be posting about changing your mindset to change your life.
Hello and welcome to Dianna’s Writing Den. Some of you may know me from my old blog, Fictional Worlds (fictionalworlds.net). For those of you who don’t, I am a young Canadian writer who focuses mainly on dark fantasy, though currently I am also working on my first YA fantasy project. I created Fictional Worlds in order to talk about my passion, which is writing, and to share my writing journey with others. Due to some issues with my former host, I have created this blog in its place and switched hosts.
Here in Dianna’s Writing Den you will find writing prompts and exercises, author interviews, book reviews, and blog posts on every topic imaginable related to writing. I do my best to post three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, though sometimes it’s hard when I’m also trying to complete several fictional projects and high school.
This year I hope you will follow me on my journey towards becoming the full time writer I have always dreamed of being. I hope to help other aspiring writers and to give successful writers interesting reading material. To this end I will also be doing workshops, a Dear Diary workshop in May and a Pre-Nanowrimo/Novel Planning workshop in October.
What would you like to see here on Dianna’s Writing Den?
I am always working on writing more, on devoting more time to my craft. I am not the best at self discipline. I do love my craft. I also love my friends, of which I have many, most of whom live quite a distance from me. It is very easy to get dristracted by friends or by one of a million other things. It is hard to balance school, writing, and all of my friendships.
I have tried many times to create a writing schedule. I have tried to designate three or four hours of my day to writing. I have tried just saying that I would spend an hour every day writing. I have tried all kinds of things; most of them have failed.
This year, instead of spending my time focusing on when and what I should be writing, I am going to focus on when and what I do write. Each day I am going to put down on my calendar how much of that day I spent writing, editing, or marketing.
You might have the same problems with self discipline. You might find it incredibly hard to spend an hour every day writing, even though you should, even though it is your passion. Instead of thinking about when you should be writing, and yelling at yourself when you don’t, try just writing it down every time you sit down to write.
The idea here is positive reenforcement: seeing that you wrote the day before on your calendar should help to inspire you to write today, and then seeing that you wrote today should help you write tomorrow.
Make the effort to write a little bit each day, and record all the time you spend writing. In a month’s time, you’ll be able to analyze how much time you spend writing, what keeps you from writing, and how you can make more time for your writing.
Today when you’ve finished writing, make sure to note on your calendar how much time you spent at your writing desk. We’ll talk more about this record in a month or so.
Do you spend too much time getting mad at yourself for not writing? Try instead to feel good about the time you do spend writing.